Tag Archives: michael

Not exactly “Thriller”……..

So my family went to see Cirque De Soleil’s Michael Jackson performance last night.

Ahem.

It was not at all what we expected.

We are lovers of Cirque De Soleil and of Michael Jackson’s music. Separately.

Together – Not. So. Much.

First of all, it is not a circus. It is a tribute concert. Yes, I would have loved to have known that several months ago when I decided family time was more important than college savings.

And to make it worse, it is a tribute concert with other people singing Michael Jackson’s music.

Ahem.

No one will ever sing his music as well as he did. It was a rookie mistake to even try. And their interpretations of many of his songs gave them a hard rock tilt. Ick.

Second of all, the show was minus the trademark “performance” aspect that has made Cirque De Soleil famous and, ahem, worth the money.

Speaking of money. This show is not cheap. At all.

The other things I did not like….

The bright stage light that shone directly in my eyes for about 5 minutes.

The fact that one of the men portraying the members of the Jackson 5 was Asian. Nope. Not kidding.

The pole dancer. (She was skilled but I have now paid – a lot of money – for my son’s first pole dance performance and have shown both of my daughters that you can in fact make a career out of that type of entertainment. Nope. Not fabulous.)

The gates to Neverland that took center stage for most of the first half of the show. Why even go there? It seemed in poor taste.

The very loud music.

The very large screens that constantly played videos that completely distracted from the human performers.

Just about everything else.

To quote the guy sitting next to us, “I could have paid $35 and seen that caliber of a show at Kings Dominion.” Ouch.

It wasn’t all horrible. There was an amazing disabled dancer. And a contortionist who contorted beautifully.

But that’s it.

We left at intermission and since it was 20 minutes long, we had plenty of time to skedaddle.

Arse in seat………..

Apparently, that is the way to get a book written.

Plant your arse in a seat and click away at the keyboard.

Arse in Seat

Just in case  you don’t remember every detail of the life that I chronicle here, I’ll take a sec to remind you that I am  writing a novel called The Alligator Purse. You can read chapter 1 here, if you like.

For the past three years, I have focused on non-fiction (aka this blog). And, then. Well, then I joined a writing group that encouraged me to try my hand at fiction. Now I am drinking the Kool-aid and have taken on a full-fledged novel.

That was brave, right? I know.

What was I thinking, right?

I know. Believe me, I know.

But now I am thinking, maybe some of you want the Kool-aid, too. Maybe some of you are writing a novel for the first time. Or maybe just an article or a short story – because maybe you are smarter than I am and maybe you don’t want to overwhelm yourself all at once – right before school gets out and the kids are home a.l.l. d.a.y.

I know, what was I thinking?

But maybe it would be fun not to write this novel all by my lonesome. I mean, sure, I will write the book with my own ideas and story ideas. But maybe, just maybe, we can skip down the yellow brick road together.

So, I will tell you what I am doing along the way and what works and what wasn’t so great.

Here are my first thoughts…

Arse in Seat Modus Operandi

The first thing I can tell you is that you must put your arse in a seat. And type. A lot. And then. A lot more.

That woman in the picture is not me – but she makes me want to highlight my hair again. Not all blond on the top like hers, but you know soft-subtle highlights.It’s summer after all…

Erghhhhh. See how easy it is for me to get distracted. Arse in Seat. Arse in Seat. Not Distracted. Arse in Seat.

Anyseat, I am starting my fourth chapter – I am at about 6,000 words. A typical novel runs about 75,000 words. Yes, I have a l.o.n.g. way to go.

My entire story is not completely plotted out, although I am pretty sure I know 5 or 6 major story events that must happen and how I would like the book to end. But the only way I am going to find out the details in between is to write them. (That, and drink more Kool-aid, possibly spiked with Vodka.)

Writers Groups

I will continue to go to my writers group mostly because I love them dearly and they serve yummy snacks. But also because they encourage me to write. And they tell me when I am not doing a great job – in a kind, loving way – but they let me know when something isn’t working. Plus, I am accountable to them. They expect me to submit chapters on a regular basis.

We meet once a week during the day when my kids are at school. That works well for me.

Take notes here – you want to be sure to find a writers group that has most of its members submitting work on a regular basis. You want to surround yourself with serious writers, who are writing.

If you are wondering how to find a writers group – try this:

1. Meetup – this site is great for all sorts of meetups (groups of people who like doing the same thing with other people) and there are tons of writing groups listed.

2. If your town has a university – call the English Department and see if have any writing groups.

3. Try your local library. They usually coordinate book clubs and might be willing to coordinate a writing group as well.

4. Take a writing class – many writing groups come from students who took a class together.

5. Simply ask around – I am amazed out how many aspiring authors are out in the world putting pen to paper. You might be surprised at who is interested in starting a group with you.

Beta Readers

My writing group is awesomesauce and it’s amazing that they are all writers. But that means they read a story differently than someone who is primarily a reader. Writers are more technical. They know the jargon and they will spew it out at you when necessary.

Beta readers are just people who like to read. They can tell you if your story is marketable because they will tell you if they would pass your book on to a friend when they are done with it.

The only thing you have to be careful of with beta readers is that they will tell you what they want to happen next. You have to remember that you are driving the story line. You determine the plot. They tell you if what you have already written works.

I asked my beta readers two things…

1. To promise not to share my chapters with anyone else. I told them if they know of someone who would like to be a beta reader, I would happily add her name to the distribution list. But I need to know who is getting what and when.

2. To be perfectly honest. I absolutely want to hear what works and what they like. But, more importantly, I want to hear where they get stuck – what doesn’t make sense. I want to know what piques their interest and makes them want to read more. And I absolutely want to know what questions they have – so I make sure to answer them all.

Writing Classes

I have signed up for two classes – both through Writers Digest.

The first one is this one that starts tomorrow. It’s called the Agent One-on-One Pitch Slam. During the course, I will work directly with Paula Munier on the first ten pages of The Alligator Purse.

The second class begins mid-June and is taught by Mark Spencer. It is an Advanced Novel Writing Course. You have to have 10,000 words written at the beginning of the course and the plan is to get you to 50,000 by the end of the 8-week session. Gulp.

My arse will need to be in a seat quite a bit.

Other Resources

Next week, I will also meet with Rachelle Gardner. She hosted this contest and, holy koolaid, I won. The prize is half an hour with her. Reviewing my work.

I won this contest because I took a chance and entered. There were tons of great entries and I just got lucky that my friends love me enough to vote for me.

Web Presence – aka Platform

This is a word that sends most novice writers right back under the blankets. I don’t know a lot about all of this but I do have a blog, another blog, a twitter, a facebook, and a pinterest account. I also reserved www.TheAlligatorPurse.com so that no one can take it before I become wildly successful and try to snag it too late. I also reserved my full name as a url so that I can start working on my name as my brand.

Luckily for us newbiews, there are lots of folks who know a lot about building a platform. You can read this post from Jeff Goins blog sharing information from platform guru Michael Hyatt.

Notebook

For Shakespeare’s sake, keep a notebook with you or at least something you can write down your ideas on. Trust me on this one. You are going to have a moment of sheer brilliance at the most unexpected time and you are going to be so confident that you couldn’t possibly forget it. Then you are going to start noticing other people’s hair color and “poof”, your idea will be gone. Lost 4-evah. So write it down the minute you have it.

I wrote about this in an article called Believing We Have a Story To Tell on Writer Unboxed because I have learned it the hard way. Too. Many. Times.

Own It

This is the most important thing – so it probably should have gone at the top – pretend it’s there okay?

You must own the fact that you are a writer. When you are at a cocktail party and someone asks you what you do, you must answer confidently, “I am a writer.” Do not explain that you are not published. Do not explain that your mother loves your work. Dear heavens, please do not explain that. Do not explain that it’s really more of a hobby.

YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. period. You Write. Therefore. YOU. ARE. A. WRITER. If you are not actually writing, remember the Arse in Seat axiom.

That is all for now. Because in a moment of extreme weakness, I signed up for a class and have 10,000 (quality) words due to a published author who will critique my work in two weeks.

I am going to keep my arse in this seat until I no longer feel like this…..

Disclaimer #1: It is important to note that the Arse in Seat Model does not work for all disciplines. For example, if you are hoping to compete in a marathon of more than mere words, you must get your arse out of the seat.

Disclaimer #2: This picture is also not me. I do not wear heels and I do not dress in all white – not even after Easter. And my floor is very honestly not that clean. Never will be.

Beijing – Olympic Park and Panda Bears………

While we were in Beijing, we wanted to see Olympic Park. This was an interesting thing to accomplish.

I don’t know if all tours are run like this in China or if we just got some bad tour mojo….. but …. yikes. Our travel agent planned an itinerary for our day and a half in Beijing. We asked to go to the Great Wall – the section that you walk up and luge down. That did not happen. We went to the wall and walked up but we also had to walk down. That was a big bummer!

He also coordinated visits for us to see the Summer Palace and Ming’s Tomb. I ask you – why would we go to stuffy ole Ming’s tomb when we could see where Michael Phelps made history? Duh? And why would we go to the Summer Palace when we could see the Panda bears. I mean, really. Honestly, if we would have had more time, we would have so gone to Ming’s Tomb and the Summer Palace but time was short and we were traveling with three younguns who love to swim – so priorities, right?

When we got on the tour mobile, we asked to make some changes to our original schedule. OOOOOOOppppps. Apparently that is not acceptable – well, it can be acceptable if you are willing to pay more. Huh? We wanted to change two sites for two other sites. In America, we call that a “no-brainer” – in China it is apparently called an “increase in fees”. Got it.

We were also told that we were going to be charged more money because we were not going shopping. You read that right – n.o.t. going shopping. Huh? We did not ask to go shopping. And, shopping was not on our original schedule. But, now we were going to pay to not shop. Hmmmmmm.

Oh, and our tour guide was happy to take us by an ATM machine so we could pay in cash. Yeah, how do you think that worked out for her?

So, very long, very frustrating story short – we made the changes and only had to pay extra for the zoo fees. Now, that makes more sense.  And hubby had sense enough to suggest insist that our travel agent in Delhi be billed by our guide’s travel agency directly in Beijing – no cash transactions, thank you very much. So nice of you to offer though. tee hee. (Now you know I did not just marry hubby for his good looks.)

We quickly put it all behind us and walked in awe through Olympic Park. It is a pretty cool place. Most of the signage in China is in, well, Chinese – so it was fun to see this sign that we could actually read.

The bird’s nest was huge and fabulous…

And then, of course, the water cube. Unfortunately it was not open – but we used our imagination. 😉 I could easily imagine Bear, Flower, and Angel diving off the same block that Michael Phelps used. Can’t you?

And the fun mascots…

And how can you go to Olympic Park and not take a picture of the rings? You can’t, right?

There were some pretty awesome statues throughout the park. And if you stand at angle with the sun in your eyes and lean to the left and lift one foot up, this guy absolutely resembles Michael Phelps.

Her, not so much…

Not too sure what this symbolizes – but it looked cool enough…

Maybe he was trying to envision the swimming statue as Michael Phelps, too? What? He could be. Or, maybe, it’s just hard to hold a sailboat with no arms.

The sign wasn’t much help either…

Sure, it’s nice information to know, but it didn’t so much help on the interpretation side of things.

Travel in China is different than what we have experienced in the rest of Asia. Truly, not many of the people we encountered spoke English. This lady and her sister were so kind to help hubby negotiate with a vendor for a better price on the stuffed mascots. If you plan to visit China, learn from our mistakes, you’ll want to know this about shopping with vendors in Beijing (and perhaps all of China). It is wise to have money in smaller denominations. Otherwise the vendors are likely to give you counterfeit bills as change. Wanna know how we know that? Go ahead. Take a guess.

We tried to buy her sister a set of mascots too but the only thanks she wanted was a picture with our family.

Next, we headed over to the zoo. Fun Fun. We have seen a panda or two at the zoo in Washington, DC, but the Beijing zoo has at least a dozen of them. And here was another sign we could read.

And these guys were fabuloso!


The pandas also had this wonderful playground.

But this guy was just too tired to play. So cute!

Anybear, we did have a wonderful afternoon and hope to go back some time and see more of the historical stuff.

So many layers…………..

I don’t normally pick the topic du jour to write about. But, I have been thinking a lot about Michael Jackson this week – yeah, I know, who hasn’t been. Right now, thoughts of him have been nearly impossible to avoid. Love him or hate him, he was an icon of our pop culture. It would probably be hard to find anyone who doesn’t recognize his name.

MJ’s name came up at the pool. One of my friends is exploring online dating options and I suggested to her that she use the question, “what do you think about Michael Jackson’s death” as a barometer for picking the men she will go out with. Of course, I was half kidding. But think about it for a minute. You would know right away if the guy was a logical thinker with no room for gray areas, compassionate, in touch with his feminine side, a possible dance partner, a believer in plastic surgery, or just completely out of touch. Interesting, huh?

Like many, I have run the full spectrum of emotions – all the way from “dang that’s horrible” to “good riddance”.

But the central thread running through all that I have been thinking is what a real responsibility we have as parents to nurture our children. To hold them tight when it’s dark, to let go of their hands when they need to grow but to keep our own hands cupped behind them in case they stumble backwards, to just love them with our whole hearts. To not use them as a means to an end. To help them learn and love to smile and to wipe away their inevitable tears when they cry. To anticipate things that could hurt them and not throw them bound and gagged into harms way.

I saw a press conference given by Joe Jackson the other day. Before he talked about his son’s memory and the deep loss I am sure he is feeling (if no where else but in his wallet), he talked about a new project he was working on. My heart cracked. Even in his death, Michael still did not seem to have his father’s full attention – even when the rest of the world stood still if only for a second.

Really and truly, I could not believe it. The full circle of it all.

Here is a man who influenced the world in very spectacular ways and he never seemed to accept himself. How does this bode for the rest of us with much less lofty ambitions and accomplishments? The press keeps showing pictures of him as a boy and then as a man – it was a little sickening because it was just for shock value, letting the pictures say what they could not mutter aloud because it would have seemed inappropriate – but those pictures were just that – shocking and inappropriate. We all get it that Michael Jackson mutilated himself with surgeries and probably bleaching and God only knows what else. We all know he was a mess. And that his mess spilled over into the lives of so many. But I would argue that he is not the one who filled that glass and started tipping it over. He had a lot of help spilling!

I know he was accused of some very dark acts (and let me be clear that I would not have left my children in his care – not that he was asking, but you know what I am saying). Anyglove, he will soon enough be held accountable for all of that. I am not writing here to sit in judgment – just to evaluate my own parenting and make some adjustments. We can all use some improvement. His death reminds me of the damage we can all do to each other, so I am trying to be more patient, less critical, and just more loving in general.

I want my children to know that they are loved, protected, respected, and most importantly – accepted. And that I am so proud of them. Note to self – remember to act that way.

They also showed pictures of a run-down Neverland. Oh, the symbolism in that place. A child that was never allowed to be a child builds a magic kingdom that simply crumbles. So many broken little pieces.

Clearly Michael Jackson connected with his mother. After all, he has given custody of his children to her. But I am so sad for them. Not that life was going to be easy for them in the first place, but now they have lost their father. Horrible. But the obstacles ahead of them. Good grief. Katherine Jackson did not seem to do much enough to help Michael – what will happen to those kids?

I guess prayers are helpful – but humans are involved – so let’s also cross our fingers that things work out for those poor children and for anyone else affected by all of this.